Abney Park Cemetery
Abney Park is one of Hackney’s finest green spaces and is listed as a Grade II park on Historic England’s register of parks and gardens of historic interest.
As one of London’s ‘Magnificent 7’ garden cemeteries, it opened in 1840 and is the resting place of around 200,000 people in 60,000 graves. They have memorials ranging from elaborate monuments to pathside common grave markers.
It covers 12.5 hectares and is located between Stoke Newington Church Street and Stoke Newington High Street.
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The project is to conserve and develop all aspects of the park, including its built and natural heritage. It also seeks to improve the experience for all the park’s users. With support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) and us, improvements to Abney Park are nearing completion.
We’ve brought the historic chapel back into use as a venue. A new cafe and community room will open at the park’s main entrance in 2024. There’s a new accessible entrance on Church Street, and improved signage throughout the park. Although there have been major improvements, the valuable and much loved haven for trees, plants, and wildlife is remaining intact.
The Chapel refurbishment includes laying a new floor. It also includes providing toilet facilities, electricity, and lighting. We will add new seating at balcony level. The new cafe will provide refreshments for park visitors. It will also offer an interpretation of the site’s history. The new community room will welcome more school and community learning and activity groups. We’ve installed an environmentally friendly heat pump in the park. It will provide heat and hot water to the new buildings and help reduce the carbon footprint of Hackney’s parks and green spaces. This is in line with our plan to reach net zero carbon by 2031:
For more information on the project, Abney Park Restoration (PDF 5mb)
The restoration project started on 6 September 2021 and we expect to complete it during winter 2024. The park will remain open throughout the restoration. On occasion one of the entrances may be temporarily closed to carry out work.
For restoration updates and further information see Abney Park Trust.
Abney Park Trust is a charity based at Abney and works in partnership with us. They run walks, tours and events which celebrate the heritage of Abney Park. They also maintain private and commonwealth war graves and conduct grave searches for the public, by appointment. You can contact them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Abney Park cafe
As part of the restoration project, we have built a new cafe facility behind the historic lodge building. It is on the right hand side of the main entrance. It will provide a place to get refreshments, relax, and meet with friends and family. Additionally, it will be an important source of income to help fund future park management and maintenance. This will make it more sustainable.
Images of proposed cafe
The Abney Unearthed project aims to research, map and learn about the people buried in Abney Park when the park operated as a commercial cemetery from 1840 to the late 1970s.
The volunteer based project has now successfully run for over 5 years. Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (now NLHF) and Hackney Council in 2017 allowed the project to run for two years, and Hackney Council funded the project from March to August 2021. The project is now funded by the NLHF – funded Restoration Project and will run until at least September 2024.
At the end of 2019 the first phase was given a successful rating by the NLHF after providing informative tours and displays, also adding information to the database and maps to create a searchable online map.
The project tells the story of the cemetery’s residents and how the site reflects the social changes that have taken place in Hackney and East London since the cemetery opened in 1840.
The project means we’re learning more about the people buried here, and exactly where their graves are.
For more information see Abney Unearthed.
Find out if someone is buried in Abney Park
It can be very difficult to find a grave even with a plot number – the ground around the graves can be uneven and overgrown. We recommend you book an appointment with Abney Park Trust staff who will come with you if you are searching for a specific grave. Email email@example.com to enquire about finding a grave.
If you decide to explore without our help, please bear in mind that, as well as a memorial park, Abney Park is also a nature reserve and an important site for a variety of plants and wildlife – so please take care not to damage the memorials or disturb the vegetation or habitats.
Abney Unearthed is working hard to replace as much missing information as possible By checking every grave. However, there are still gaps in the burial information:
- records for May 1970 – May 1974 and May 1978 – March 1979 are missing
- records for Jan 1935 – March 1936 are missing
- records for Jan 1903 to Jan 1904 are missing
- not all plot numbers are on the maps
- not all burials are marked or have a headstone
- common graves are often unmarked and we are unable to locate any prior to 1918
Common graves are also often unmarked on the plot maps but we do have some knowledge of their locations. Abney Unearthed has so far added around 200 common graves to the plot maps.
No longer a working cemetery, Abney Park is run as a park and is a site of metropolitan importance for biodiversity. It’s one of London’s most central woodlands and an important site for deadwood invertebrates and fungi.
The site was formed in 1840 from the estates of Fleetwood House and Abney House. Abney House had been the home of renowned non-conformist and hymn writer Isaac Watts, which led to Abney Park becoming the foremost burial ground for Dissenters – people who practised their religion outside the established church.
It was founded on these principles, with a non-denominational chapel, and was open to all, regardless of their religion – it’s the only one of the Magnificent 7 that’s not consecrated.
The cemetery was designated a local nature reserve in 1993 due to its value for people and wildlife. It’s also a metropolitan site of importance for nature conservation, meaning that it’s one of the most important sites for biodiversity in London.
It’s home to an impressive collection of trees, as it was originally laid out around 1840 as an arboretum – a labelled tree collection.
Abney Park Cemetery has around 200 old trees in it. In 1840 the site was planted as an arboretum of exotic trees by Hackney’s famous Loddiges nursery. Several rare and interesting old trees remain from this period. As the cemetery business declined in the 20th century, the woodland seeded itself and the reserve is now one of London’s most important sites for wildlife.
The concentration of old trees, excellent deadwood habitats, and the fact that the site has never been built on, make Abney Park a priceless inner London haven for invertebrates and fungi. Bats, tawny owls, sparrowhawks, wood mice and bank voles also find homes here.
The Abney Park Veteran Tree Project was created in 2009 in recognition of the importance of the old trees. The project was funded by the London Tree and Woodland Grant Scheme.
- veteran trees leaflet by Russell Miller
- The Trees and Woodland of Abney Park Cemetery – article by Russell Miller
There’s an abundance of wildlife in Abney Park Cemetery. A local amateur naturalist has produced some drawings of the birds and butterflies that are present there:
View birds (PDF 1mb)
View wildlife (PDF 202kb)
View trees (PDF 201kb)
The ecology of Abney Park
The park was previously managed by Abney Park Trust, a charitable trust who leased the park from the Council between 1992 and 2015.
They’re still closely involved in an educational and community capacity, and receive a Council grant to run activities at the site including workshops for both adults and children, guided walks and practical volunteering.
The Council is now working closely with the Trust to develop and deliver an activity plan as part of the NLHF funded restoration project.
Abney Park Trust puts on a range of events, activities and walking tours of the cemetery on different topics. These help reveal the many hidden stories of Abney.
See the Abney Park Trust website for more information and to sign up to its newsletter.
Abney Park is a unique and atmospheric place and has provided a backdrop for films, music videos and other media. If you’d like to film in Abney Park, contact our film office.
The cemetery dates back to 1840 and there are a large number of memorials, some of which are very old and need to be inspected to make sure they’re safe.
As the gravestones and memorials are inspected, some may need to be cordoned off or occasionally laid flat. Families of the deceased whose graves are affected will be informed where possible. When visiting the cemetery please stay on the paths and observe the safety notices.
Abney Park is a nature reserve and historic parks. We ask all visitors to respect our park and keep themselves and others safe by:
- not climbing on monuments or trees
- not starting fires of barbecues
- not foraging
- keeping dogs under control and cleaning up after them
- keeping to the paths
There are several ways you can get involved in helping us care for Abney Park as a volunteer.
Litter picking takes place on the first saturday of the month 10am to 12pm.
Conservation volunteering takes place every Thursday 9.30am to 1pm.
Grave maintenance volunteering takes place every Wednesday 11am to 1pm.
Abney unearthed takes place every Tuesday 10am to 2pm.
Corporate volunteering is on hold until after the restoration project is complete.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to enquire about volunteering.